Update 7:17 p.m. All stations are now open, according to BART. Thanks for following, we're signing off.
Update 6:47 p.m. Powell Street Station is still disembark only, and all other stations are open, according to BART. An annoyed passenger called into our newsroom to complain that people can still not get onto Embarcadero trains though. BART says in a statement that Embarcadero is open, but police chatter and 511 statements say it's only for people disembarking.
Update 6:23 p.m. Civic Center has been reopened for entrances and exists, police on the scanner are discussing closing the Embarcadero Station. Protesters are shouting "how do you spell murderer, SFPD."
KQED Reporter Mina Kim took photos of the protest at Civic Center.
Update 6:14 p.m. Protesters reach Embarcadero. Trains are now stopping at Civic Center and Powell so that passengers can disembark, according to BART.
Update 6:03 p.m. Sansome Street exit is now the only one open at Montgomery Street Station. Muni is no longer stopping at Montgomery, Powell or Civic Center.
You can watch the protesters march down Market Street on ABC7 News.
Update 5:54 p.m. BART announced that Powell Street Station is closed. Protesters are heading both up Market toward Powell, and toward the 16th Street Station.
BART says that it will now start stopping trains at Civic Center to allow passengers to disembark.
There is discussion on the scanner of closing Montgomery Station.
Update 5:40 p.m. KQED's Mina Kim reports that after about a dozen protesters tried to stop an East Bay bound train, about 20 BART police descended on them and began to close the center. Protesters have dispersed, some wearing Guy Fawkes masks, she says.
Announcements on a BART police scanner imply that they are now beginning to run trains through Powell station as well.
@abc7newsBayArea reports that entrances to the Powell St. BART station are closed but trains are stopping there.
Can BART legally restrict the free speech rights of protesters on BART property? For more, host Cy Musiker talks with Professor Eugene Volokh, who teaches free speech law at the UCLA School of Law.
Update 5:30 p.m. BART has officially closed Civic Center, trains are just running through the station. Police say that they will begin arresting any protesters in five minutes, according to Mission Loc@l.
Update 5:21 p.m.Frank Chu is at the protest, marking it as a true San Francisco affair. On Ustream he announced that "cops are covering up murder cases and stealing my money as a movie star in a thousand zegnatronic galaxies."
Update 4:55 p.m. The Federal Communications Department has announced it will investigate whether BART violated the law by shutting down cell phone service last week at four stations.
KQED's Mina Kim reports that a small group of protesters have gathered inside Civic Center BART, and that there is a large police presence. Phone service has not been cut off.
Update 4:00 p.m. Even Al Jazeera is reporting on this story. BBC too.
KQED's Rachel Dornhelm spoke to BART spokesman Linton Johnson this morning about the weekend incident in which the transit agency's web site was defaced and the personal information of myBART.org users published online by the hacker activist group known as Anonymous. The group targeted BART for cutting off cell phone service Thursday in order to short-circuit a planned protest related to the shooting death by BART police of Charles Hill last month. The protest, ultimately, did not occur.
"This group anonymous violated a fundamental constitutional right of our customers and that is their right to privacy," Johnson told Rachel Dornhelm. "They took their personal information and exposed it on the web for all to see. And we find that shocking. (And) they do that under the cloak of protecting a different constitutional right - the right to free speech. I am just stunned and I think our customers are upset as well."
Johnson also said he didn't believe BART violated any constitutional rights when it shut off cell service. He repeatedly made the point that the constitutional right to safety trumped the right to free speech. He cited a previous protest over the Hill case as dangerous to passengers.
"There was somebody who jumped on top of the train car," Johnson said of the incident."My heart stopped. That moment when I saw that happen, I was scared to death that that guy would hurt himself or kick in a window and splatter glass all over one of our other passengers, violating another constitutional right that other people aren't talking about, and that is a constitutional right to safety. And on the platform the right to safety is paramount. The right to be able to express your opinion ends basically at the fare gate, where you have to have a ticket… We can't have chaos on the platform because people can get hurt...The right to safety is paramount.
"Where we would we be if we had specific knowledge on Thursday, the exact day and time and location and and tactics these protesters wanted to use, creating an (even more) chaotic situation than the one on July 11? If we had let that gone through, what would you be questioning me about today if someone had kicked in a window and splattered glass, injuring several of our customers?...You wouldn't be asking me about cell phones, you'd be asking me what did you know, when, and what did you do about it?
BART spokesman Linton Johnson says he doesn't think BART violated constitutional rights, and that the hacker group Anonymous did
On the right to safety vs. freedom of speech
On whether BART would suppress cell phone use again during a planned protest
On reports that shutting down cell phones was his idea
Anonymous is calling for a peaceful protest today at 5 p.m. at Civic Center, which you can hear in this video from the group. In the video, an electronically altered voice, speaking over rather ominous music, lauds the recent social networking efforts that played a role in the Arab uprisings, before turning to BART.
"Blocking communication of cell phone devices is unacceptable. The Bay Area Rapid Transit has decided that blocking cellular communications is the correct way to scare off protesters. To the Bay Area Rapid Transit, by performing this action you have not only threatened your citizens' safety, but you have also performed an act of censorship. By doing this, you have angered Anonymous."
The comparison of BART's action to those recently taken by autocratic regimes is not just being made by hackers. This post by Rebecca Farmer of the ACLU of Northern California also speaks to that point of view. An extract:
Pop quiz: where did a government agency shut down cell service yesterday to disrupt a political protest? Syria? London? Nope. San Francisco.
The answer may seem surprising, but that’s exactly what happened yesterday evening. The Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) asked wireless providers to halt service in four stations in San Francisco to prevent protestors from communicating with each other. The action came after BART notified riders that there might be demonstrations in the city.
All over the world people are using mobile devices to organize protests against repressive regimes, and we rightly criticize governments that respond by shutting down cell service, calling their actions anti-democratic and a violation of the rights to free expression and assembly. Are we really willing to tolerate the same silencing of protest here in the United States?
BART director Lynette Sweet has also criticized the action. State Senator and San Francisco mayoral candidate Leland Yee issued a statement that he was "shocked that BART thinks they can use authoritarian control tactics."
Update 1:10 p.m.
At a news teleconference this afternoon, a reporter insinuated that the attack on myBART should have been easy to detect, and asked when was the last time BART's web security had been audited. Johnson told the reporter to file a public records act request, and said, "I want to reiterate we're the victims here." A debate then ensued on BART's culpability in the breach of private user information.